June 1, 2013 at 9:32 pm #30619
I just finished a book by Chorover called “From Genesis to Genocide”. It is in some MIT Classic Series according to the cover. It is published in 1979. I had the book standing in my bookshelf for I don’t know how long, I don’t even remember why I ordered that book. It was probably because I read about it in some blog or something. But I don’t understand why this book so not well known even among the current activists, even in Amazon it has only about one or two comments or reviews.
But the book is really great. It is concerned of the everlasting battle between meaning and power/behavior control, etc. It is a great reading overall.
He even described a great example behavior control in Plato’s writing, probably Republic. In that dialogue, Plato again uses the voice of Socrates to bring about a scam society.
Socrates: How then may we devise one of those needful falsehoods of which we lately spoke — just one royal lie which may deceive the (present) rulers, if that be possible, and at any rate the rest of the city?
Glaucon: What sort of a lie?
Socrates: Nothing new: only an old Phoenician tale of what has often occurred before now in other places (as the poets say, and have made the world believe) though not in our time, and I do not know whether such an even could ever happen again, or could now even be made probable if it did.
Glaucon: How your words seem to hesitate on your lips!
Socrates: You will not wonder at my hesitations when you have heard.
Glaucon: Speak, and fear not.
Socrates: Well then, I will speak, although I really know not how to look you in the face, or in what words to utter the audacious fiction, which I propose to communicate gradually, first to the rulers then to the soldiers, and lastly to the people. They are to be told that their youth was a dream, and the education and training which they received from us, an appearance only; in reality during all that time they were being formed and fed in the wind of the earth where themselves . . . were manufactured; when they were completed, the earth, their mother sent them up; and so, their country being their mother and also their nurse, they are bound to advise for her good, and to defend her against attacks. . . .
Glaucon:You had good reason to be ashamed of the lie which you were going to tell.
Socrates: True, but there is more coming; I have only told you half. “Citizens”, we shall say to them in our tale, “you are bothers, yet God has framed you differently. Some of you have the power of command, in the composition of these he has mingled gold, wherefore they also the greatest honour; others he has made of silver to be auxiliaries; others again who to be husbandmen and craftsmen he has composed of brass and iron; and the species will generally be preserved in children. But as all are of the same original stock, a golden parent will sometimes have a silver son, or a silver parent a golden son. And God proclaims as a first principle to the rulers, that above all else, there is nothing which they should so anxiously guard . . . as . . . the purity of the race. They should observe what elements mingle in their offspring; for if the son of a golden or silver parent has an admixture of brass and iron, then nature orders a transposition of ranks. . . . For an oracle says that when a man of brass or iron guards the state, it will be destroyed.” Such is the tale; is there any possibility of making our citizens believe it?
Glaucon: Not in the present generation . . . but their songs may be made to believe in the tale, and their sons’ sons, and posterity after them.
I don’t really understand why this book from Chorover is so small known. It’s a great book. Read if you dare!June 2, 2013 at 6:26 pm #30627EmilyParticipant
Cool find Hermes! I checked this book out on Amazon and think that this is something I would definitely like to read.
There is only one reader feedback, but an illuminating one that begins like this: “Chorover’s basic argument is that the psych disciplines (psychology, psychiatry, psychoanalysis), do not operate from a neutral position. Instead, they bolster and perpetuate ideas about humanity that are inherently flawed.”
I cannot agree more that the psych disciplines promote various belief systems that overlap/unify under the principle that some individuals are fundamentally biologically or psychologically inferior to others and thus this justifies subjugation of such persons. The tangible implications of such belief systems are oppressive and devastating not only to individuals but to societies at large.
Of late, I’ve been reading all the AA books. I’m also interested in the other 12 step program texts. I enjoy the personal recovery stories contained in them.June 3, 2013 at 11:06 am #30688
Yes, the book was written in 1979 so it was before the boom in SSRI, atypical neuroleptics, ADHD, etc, but the same arguments apply well to the current situation as well. He tracks down, for instance, the pattern of behavior control from Plato to eugenics, phrenology, treatment of slaves in USA, nazis, lobotomies, the treatment of “Hyperkinetic Reaction of Childhood” that would later on become ADHD, etc. For instance, in that quote Plato imagines Socrates telling this lie to people which states that people are by nature composed of these different elements which make them suitable for certain positions in the society. They used to say that African slaves are by nature inferior people and it was for their own benefit to by slaves under the guidance of white men and they even invented diagnosis for “slave escaping disorder” (I forgot its exact name) and treatment for it. More recently they have claimed, for instance, that people with mental disease have a chronical and inborn problem in their brain, such as having too much or too little of neurotransmitters in their brains or more recently, they have broken brain circuits, and therefore they belong to this other class of people which should be controlled by the other class of people (psychiatrists, state, etc).June 3, 2013 at 1:27 pm #30698
I just tried to find opinions or reviews of this book in Google, but frankly there wasn’t much to find. I did find this interesting comment in some paper about sociobiology here http://joelvelasco.net/teaching/2890/leedsdusek81-editorsnotesociobiology.pdf.
While half a dozen popularizations of sociobiology by Dawkins, Wilson himself, Hapgood, Barash, Wallace, and Tiger (in decreasing order of technicality and increasing order of speculative looseness) are available, there is only Stephan Chorover’s From Genesis to Genocide which attacks sociobiology while placing it in the historical tradition of biological determinism; there is no book-length criticism of sociobiological theory for the general reader. Yet Chorover’s publisher, the M.I.T. Press, made virtually no marketing or review efforts. Some nine months after Chorover’s book appeared, one small advertisement was run once in the New York Review and The New York Times.
In some way, the book is a bit similar to Whitaker’s books Mad in America and Anatomy of an Epidemic in that it traces the history to the present day, though its focus is slightly different with its dealing of illegal drugs such as heroin and the prison system, and even Genesis and the original sin and Plato.June 10, 2013 at 2:59 pm #30913In Need Empowered Collective Local FocusedParticipant
What I get is, is a pastorilized, criminalized society, is a way of being bad. When it is taken as an excerpt, without the logical, and philosophical beliefs in harm to oneself, for it’s expression, it does appear as though it is just a joke. Are you okay, baby?August 20, 2016 at 8:18 am #80593
I wrote this post in 2013. Today I googled Chrorover again, after thinking about related issues, and found out he died in 2015 at the age of 82.
BCS Professor Emeritus Stephan Chorover dies at 82
“Chorover graduated from the Bronx High School of Science in 1950. He received his Bachelor of Science from City College of New York in 1955 and a PhD in neuropsychology from New York University in 1959. Trained as a physiological psychologist, his early research focused on learning and memory in animals, and interactions between the central nervous system, human behavior, and socioenvironmental contexts. While at MIT, he became increasingly interested in human systems in composite biological, psychological, and social terms.
He was a strong advocate against the misuse of psychology and neuroscience as means of sociopolitical control, which he explored in his book, “From Genesis to Genocide: The Meaning of Human Nature and the Power of Behavior Control.” Chorover became an oft-cited opponent of the use of psychosurgery, especially as a treatment of violent prisoners and indigent populations. His interest in the social context of behavior control motivated his research focus on social psychology during later years.”August 20, 2016 at 8:33 am #80595
After all these years, seeing what the psychiatric system can be at its worst, and then getting away from it, Chorover’s book is still to my mind one of the best ones that deal with some of the main problems in psychology and psychiatry. There are probably many other works in scientific papers, etc, that deal with similar issues, but I don’t get to read them because I don’t study those fields actively.
For instance, I don’t have any serious problems in using drugs to change behaviour, if it’s done with agreement with the person taking the drug. Same with electric shocks, etc. What I’m interested in is to understand how the techniques or tools of both psychology and psychiatry are used in behaviour control, to change the behaviour of a person so that it fits the current society, or at least does not bother some other party in society.August 29, 2016 at 12:23 pm #81025lily.cParticipant
Wow, thanks for telling me about this, Hermes! This sounds like a lot of the same analysis that’s in the documentary “Century Of The Self.” Good to see you around! (I think I recall you being one of the voices I first found when I was a teenager searching for ways out of the system… think I found the “our common condition” boards before finding my way to icarus, et cetra… strange trip it’s been.)October 12, 2016 at 10:57 pm #82838Rachel777Participant
Yes, the book was written in 1979 so it was before the boom in SSRI, atypical neuroleptics, ADHD, etc, but the same arguments apply well to the current situation as well. He tracks down, for instance, the pattern of behavior control from Plato to eugenics, phrenology, treatment of slaves in USA, nazis, lobotomies, the treatment of “Hyperkinetic Reaction of Childhood” that would later on become ADHD, etc. For instance, in that quote Plato imagines Socrates telling this lie to people which states that people are by nature composed of these different elements which make them suitable for certain positions in the society. They used to say that African slaves are by nature inferior people and it was for their own benefit to by slaves under the guidance of white men and they even invented diagnosis for “slave escaping disorder” (I forgot its exact name) and treatment for it. More recently they have claimed, for instance, that people with mental disease have a chronical and inborn problem in their brain, such as having too much or too little of neurotransmitters in their brains or more recently, they have broken brain circuits, and therefore they belong to this other class of people which should be controlled by the other class of people (psychiatrists, state, etc).
Slave escaping disorder was called drapetomania.
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